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Report Cards


Year


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Institutions assessed in 2007–2008 and reassessed in 2008–2009

Canada Border Services Agency

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) manages the access of people and goods to and from Canada, in the interests of national security and public safety. CBSA carries out operations related to customs, immigration and the importation of food, plants and animals. It also administers international trade agreements and collects duties and taxes on imported goods.

2008–2009 report card at a glance

whole star whole star whole star whole star half star
B

  • Deemed refusal rate of 4.7 percent, which is the third best among institutions surveyed; in comparison, the rates for 2006 and 2007–2008 were 69 percent and 33.5 percent, respectively.
  • Strong leadership led to the development and implementation of initiatives under a three-year plan, which came to fruition in 2008–2009: backlog reduction, staffing and new practices and procedures.
  • Reduced average completion time for requests from 135 days in 2007–2008 to 44 in 2008–2009, while experiencing a 72 percent increase in requests over several years.
  • CBSA’s complaints record has improved in recent years: the number of complaints related to requests delayed beyond the timelines set out in the Access to Information Act decreased from 429 in 2006–2007 to 4 in 2008–2009. Over the same period, the Office of the Information Commissioner found an increasing number of complaints related to time extensions to be not substantiated.
  • The access to information coordinator has full delegation of authority.
  • Information management is an ongoing challenge due to legacy systems. CBSA has committed to completing an analysis of its records and information management functions in 2010–2011. This analysis will form the foundation of an improved information and records management system.
  • CBSA has to consult other institutions on 75 percent of the requests it receives.
  • 13 percent of the extensions CBSA took in 2008–2009 were for more than 120 days.
  • CBSA submitted the required notices of extensions longer than 30 days to the Office of the Information Commissioner 59 percent of the time.

Some facts about access to information operations at CBSA in 2008–2009

Number of requests carried over from 2007–2008
157
Number of new requests
1,155
Number of requests completed
1,148
Deemed refusal rate
4.7%
Average time to complete a request (in days)
44*
Number of consultation requests
299
Number of complaints registered with the Office of the Information Commissioner
36
Number of complaints the Office of the Information Commissioner resolved
7**
Number of full-time equivalents in access to information office, as of March 31, 2009
20.9
 

* Percentage of carried over and new requests delayed beyond the deadlines (30 days and extended) set out in the Access to Information Act. (See Appendix B for the formula the Office of the Information Commissioner used to calculate this rate.)

** A complaint is resolved when the Office of the Information Commissioner finds it has merit, and the institution resolves it to the Commissioner’s satisfaction.


Follow-up on 2007–2008 report card

The Canada Border Services Agency’s (CBSA) compliance with the Access to Information Act in 2007–2008 showed the effects of the institution’s continued growing pains (it was created in late 2003), although it did cut its deemed refusal rate in half from the previous year. A significant factor for CBSA over the last several years has been the increasing number and complexity of the requests it receives, and the growing number of files associated with litigation and sensitive matters, or for which it must consult other institutions. This, combined with a significant and unexpected shortage of employees, due to delays in the staffing process, set the stage for CBSA to receive a failing grade in 2007–2008. The institution had already committed to securing the required resources and did so; however, due to further staffing delays this was only possible in 2008–2009. Although a very tight fiscal situation at the institution threatens the gains CBSA has made, the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) is encouraged by CBSA’s response to the recommendations in the 2007–2008 report card.

2008–2009 report card

CBSA continued to move toward full compliance with the Access to Information Act in 2008–2009, achieving a deemed refusal rate of just 4.7 percent, third best among all the institutions surveyed this year. This is a significant improvement from 2007–2008, when CBSA’s deemed refusal rate was 33.5 percent. The institution deserves praise for its turnaround.

After receiving a first failing grade in 2006–2007, the institution made a conscious effort to improve its compliance, developing an action plan to address the OIC’s concerns, as noted in the 2007–2008 special report. CBSA had nearly fully implemented the plan by the end of 2008–2009, and the institution’s dramatically improved compliance rate is clear proof of the effectiveness of this plan.

The turnaround stemmed from several initiatives. CBSA continued to reduce its backlog of requests, staffed additional indeterminate positions in 2008–2009, and introduced several new practices and procedures. For example, it developed a checklist for records holders to follow when retrieving records, including providing severing recommendations early in the process and getting sector management sign-off of the proposed package prior to submitting it to the access to information office.

Training for access to information staff covering how and why to properly document each stage of the processing of a request, as well as the full delegation authority of the access to information coordinator, also contributed to CBSA being able to reduce its average completion time for requests from 135 calendar days in 2007–2008 to 44 in 2008–2009. CBSA did this at the same time that it faced a 72 percent increase in requests over a period of several years.

The vast majority of these requests were actually privacy requests submitted under the Access to Information Act by individuals seeking reports on their interactions with the institution, for example, as a result of a stop at the border.

The number of complaints to the OIC about CBSA has decreased significantly in the last three years—from 456 in 2006–2007 to 36 in 2008–2009—freeing up analysts to respond to access requests.

CBSA has committed to improving its compliance rate in 2009–2010 and tackling several outstanding issues. Among these are the longer-than-necessary retrieval time for records and the challenges associated with finding all the records relevant to requests. CBSA does not have a centralized records management system, and the institution’s many older legacy systems are not integrated. This means that records holders have difficulty quickly searching for and locating relevant records.

Due to the subject matter, CBSA consulted other institutions on more than 75 percent of the requests it received. For its part, CBSA has adjusted its procedure for handling incoming requests for consultations from other institutions. The access to information office now makes consultations an equal priority to access requests, and employees are trained accordingly.

The OIC notes with concern that 13 percent of the extensions CBSA took in 2008–2009 were for more than 120 days.

CBSA reports that a tight fiscal situation has already meant that the access to information office has lost support positions and that there is less money than might be ideal to carry out certain activities such as training. The OIC is concerned that this diminished funding will compromise CBSA’s ability to comply with the law.

CBSA was first part of the report card process in 2006, and has made great strides since then in improving its compliance. The OIC will watch with interest how the access to information office and the institution as a whole work to sustain its high level of achievement.

Recommendations

1. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Canada Border Services Agency strive to reduce its deemed refusal rate to zero.

Response

CBSA supports this recommendation in the context of the volume of requests we receive. CBSA has improved its compliance with legislated timeframes compared to previous years. This was due to the reduction of the backlog from previous years, the introduction of new practices and procedures (including further delegation of responsibilities to team leaders), and reorganization and growth of the Access to Information and Privacy and Disclosure Policy Division. Taken together, we anticipate these measures will further reduce the number of deemed refusals.

2. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Canada Border Services Agency identify and implement the necessary enhancements to records management systems to ensure a quick and proper search of records in response to an access to information request.

Response

CBSA supports this recommendation. The Information Management Program within the Innovation, Science and Technology Branch has committed, in 2010–2011, to completing its analysis of the records management and information management domains within the agency. This will act as the foundation for the implementation of processes and tools that will better equip the staff to provide more timely and accurate search capabilities.

3. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Canada Border Services Agency document and review the criteria it uses for extensions to ensure that the extensions are reasonable and legitimate.

Response

CBSA supports this recommendation. It has documented its criteria for extensions and incorporates those criteria in ongoing advice, guidance and direction to production staff. The criteria are reviewed on an ongoing basis and will also be examined annually in light of the OIC report card.

4. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Canada Border Services Agency comply with the Access to Information Act and notify the Office of the Information Commissioner of all the extensions it takes for more than 30 days.

Response

CBSA supports this recommendation. New staff directives and ongoing reminders were implemented. In 2009–2010, further training is being provided to ensure consistent compliance with this requirement.


Deemed refusal rate, 2006 to 2008–2009

This graph shows the deemed refusal rate for CBSA for the last three reporting periods. This is the percentage of carried over and new requests CBSA delayed each year beyond the deadlines (30 days and extended) set out in the Access to Information Act.

Deemed refusal rate, 2006 to 2008–2009

How long requests completed late were overdue, 2008–2009

CBSA reported that it completed 40 of the requests it received in 2008–2009 after their due date. This graph shows how long these requests stayed open beyond that deadline. It is of concern that 56 percent of these requests were late by more than 30 days.

Number and outcome of delay-related complaints to the OIC, 2006–2007 to 2008–2009

Number and length of time extensions reported in 2008–2009

This graph shows the number and length of the time extensions CBSA reported to have taken in 2008–2009. CBSA supplied this information in the notices it sent to the OIC under subsection 9(2) of the Access to Information Act. CBSA submitted the notices 59 percent of the time in 2008–2009; the OIC expects this figure to be 100 percent in 2009–2010.

Number and outcome of delay-related complaints to the OIC, 2006–2007 to 2008–2009

Number and outcome of delay-related complaints to the OIC, 2006–2007 to 2008–2009

These graphs show the number and outcome for two types of complaint registered against CBSA in the last three reporting periods: complaints about deemed refusals (access to information requests that CBSA delayed beyond the deadlines—30 days and extended—set out in the Access to Information Act) and complaints about CBSA’s use of the time extensions allowed under the Act. Resolved complaints are those that the OIC finds to have merit and that the institution resolves to the Commissioner’s satisfaction.

Deemed refusal complaints

Deemed refusal complaints

CBSA went from generating 429 complaints about deemed refusals in 2006–2007 to only 4 in 2008–2009.

Time extension complaints

Time extension complaints

The number of time extension complaints increased over the last three years (3; 10; 16). The OIC found an increasing number of these complaints to be not substantiated (0; 2; 5).


Number and outcome of complaints to the OIC, 2006–2007 to 2008–2009

This table sets out the number and outcome of the complaints the OIC registered against CBSA in each of the last three reporting periods. Resolved complaints are those that the OIC finds to have merit and that the institution resolves to the Commissioner’s satisfaction.

  Resolved Not
substantiated
Discontinued Pending Total
2006–2007
Administrative 367 7 64 0 438
Refusals 7 7 2 2 18
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 0 0
Total 374 14 66 2 456
2007–2008
Administrative 15 3 5 0 23
Refusals 9 1 21 7 28
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 0 0
Total 24 4 26 7 61
2008–2009
Administrative 6 6 9 0 21
Refusals 1 2 3 8 14
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 1 1
Total 7 8 12 9 36

Since 2006–2007, the overall number of complaints has decreased significantly (456; 61; 36). This was also true of administrative complaints (438; 23; 21) and resolved complaints (374; 24; 7).


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